Reply "To Get Over It"
By John B.
While perusing the PT website I came across a feature devoted to the hate mail of Kooks, Nuts, etc. Reading some of these offerings was revealing, and the most recurring theme seemed to be something like this: "Look, nobody forced you to join the church; you did it on your own, no one put a gun to your head, so stop crying about it now. GET OVER IT!"
To the authors of those letters, and to anyone else who may be thinking along similar lines, let me point out something you may not have considered: Not all of us had a choice. Some of us were raised in that cult from an early age. We made no conscious decision to join or to accept those doctrines. Most of us had our lives altered by the experience, and more than a few had lives ruined or even terminated by it.
To a child of four, six, ten, even teenage, his/her parents are the smartest people in the world. Mom and Dad know everything. They are smarter than the neighbors, smarter than the teachers, smarter than the president or the cop on the corner. They know what is right and what is wrong. They know what is best for us, and they will never lie to us about anything important.
Mom and Dad have already proved that Herbert Armstrong is the only man in the world preaching the truth. Mom and Dad have been called out of the world by God himself--God has pointed His finger at Mom and Dad and said, "I WANT YOU!" And Mom and Dad have made sure that we little kids know that we are reeeeeal lucky that Mom and Dad are our mom and dad, otherwise we would have to go into the Great Tribulation with all the kids at school.
Perhaps you cynics out there don't realize that it takes a mature mind to make a mature decision. It takes an adult mind to decide that it's time to turn your back on the human race and join a cult. But the children of that adult have no vote whatsoever. Just ask the children of Waco.
I've heard that the Catholic church has made the boast: "Give me a child for the first six years of its life and it will be a Catholic forever". I don't know if that's true, but it is a fact that a child generally grows up believing whatever Mom and Dad believe. The children of Catholics grow up Catholic, the children of Jews grow up Jews, the children of Democrats grow up Democrat, the children of Communists grow up Communist. And very infrequently do such children turn from those beliefs, even after reaching physical and mental maturity.
The child of a cult is no different.
In some cases a child will change a life philosophy after being exposed to a broader world, such as college or university. But even in college the cult child is still a cult child. His mind is closed to any idea that challenges the belief system that was soldered into his brain from infancy. Others can present facts and arguments that document the error of his beliefs, but he will resist them, certain that they are a demonic snare designed to take away his eternal reward.
Some cult children, like children everywhere, may rebel in young adulthood and leave the reservation for a time. He or she will break all the taboos he/she can find, usually going overboard to make up for lost time, frequently getting into trouble of the sort that seriously threatens his life. Drugs, sex, crime. . . the penalties can be harsh and immediate. Some of these young rebels make it and remain outside the cult, living lives that are reasonably normal. Others crawl back to the cult with whipped expressions, defeat in their eyes, and never leave again.
Even those who leave and remain out suffer from serious feelings of guilt that undermine any happiness or contentment they deserve.
I was four years old the first time I remember hearing HWA on the radio. For the next few years I heard him every day. His booklets and magazines littered our house. I lived in fear of WWIII, which he claimed would arrive in "twenty years OR LESS !!!" I was still in grade school and living in fear of this man's predictions. The 1975 in Prophecy booklet underscored the horror I would see in my lifetime, and there was no doubt that it was true because my . . .
Mom said so.
Mom had proved it.
Mom was the smartest person in my world.
Dad wasn't religious, but he never contradicted Mom.
We didn't actually go to church until I was eleven, and Mom joined when I was thirteen. The ministers were gods to me, to everyone there. You didn't question them, you certainly didn't argue with them. They were always right. Two rules applied:
Rule 1: The ministry is always right.
Rule 2: If you find the ministry to be in error, refer to Rule 1.
And that's really how it was.
I was disfellowshipped in 1973 (my rebellious stage) and remained loose for nearly five years. During those years I got a career, got married, bought a house, and had a son. But I wasn't happy. Why?
Because the Tribulation was overdue. It should have started on January 7, 1972, and it didn't. Every day that passed after that date was one day closer to hell on earth. So even though I was free of the church for a time, the poison still worked in my mind. If I worked on Saturday I felt a nagging guilt. If I smoked a cigarette I felt a nagging guilt. If I spent my paycheck without deducting tithes first, I felt a nagging guilt.
Because I knew I was sinning.
When my son was three months old, I went back. I figured I deserved the Tribulation, but he didn't. He had done nothing wrong, so I went back to save him.
Fifteen years later I quit of my own free will, and this time there is no guilt. Because this time I had discovered the real truth, and I can live out my remaining years with a clear conscience.
But I had wasted the better part of forty years in the Worldwide Cult of God, not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars I threw away that should have gone to the betterment of my children's lives.
I took a tremendous amount of abuse from the ministry, yet I feel luckier than most, because I never had it nearly so bad as many others I've talked to and read about.
Upon leaving I spent many months reevaluating everything I had ever believed or been taught. At some point I asked myself why I ever got mixed up in that mess in the first place. That's when it dawned on me: I never would have. As a mature, clear-thinking adult--if I had never been preprogrammed from age four--I would never have had any interest in religion of any kind, and I certainly would never have let some screaming, jowl-slobbering white-haired lunatic lead me into a desert of self-denial and triple-tithing.
And most of the kids who grew up in the cult never would have, either. They simply never had a choice. Yet they had their lives stolen; many were beaten, raped, robbed, and allowed to die (or committed suicide) just as irreversibly as any Jewish child in the Warsaw ghetto. Only this time the Sturmbahnfurers in charge of the proceedings were not Eichmann, Heydrich, and Himmler--no, this time they were Hoeh, Meredith, Portune, Royer (and a thousand others).
You cynics who want us to Get Over It. . . would you say the same thing to Elie Wiesel or the late Corrie ten Boom? Would you counsel a survivor of the Bataan Death March to just "Get Over It"? (after all, they did join the Army, otherwise they would not have been there, would they?)
Until you've walked a mile in our moccasins, just keep your cynical mouths shut.
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